US: Trump Fraud Case Finding Suggests 'Major Tax Evasion'

As published on: commondreams.org, Monday 29 January, 2024.

A finding by the court-appointed special monitor overseeing former U.S. President Donald Trump's fraud case in New York placed questions about a loan acquisition—and potential tax evasion—back into the spotlight over the weekend, with a tax attorney saying the Republican appeared to have fabricated the loan.

Former federal judge Barbara Jones wrote to Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron Friday about her review of Trump's business dealings through the Trump Organization, the company at the center of New York Attorney General Letitia James' business fraud case against the former president, who is now running for the GOP's presidential nomination in the 2024 election.

Ahead of Engoron's verdict, which is expected this week, Jones included in a footnote her finding that a $48 million loan that Trump has for years claimed he owed to one of his companies never actually existed.

"When I inquired about this loan, I was informed that there are no loan agreements that memorialize the loan, but that it was a loan that was believed to be between Donald J. Trump, individually, and Chicago Unit Acquisition for $48 million," Jones wrote. "However, in recent discussions with the Trump Organization, it indicated that it has determined that this loan never existed."

The loan would therefore be removed from corporate financial statements and forms submitted to the Office of Government Ethics, said Jones.

But previous financial disclosures, including forms submitted to the government as recently as last October, indicated that Trump owed money to Chicago Unit Acquisition—suggesting the disclosures "were intentionally submitted with inaccuracies related to the debt equating to tens of millions of dollars," according toBusiness Insider.

"It would appear, assuming Judge Jones' letter is accurate, that this amounts to tax evasion," Martin Lobel, a tax lawyer, toldThe Daily Beast.

Business Insider noted that Mother Jones theorized about the "mystery loan" in 2019, reporting that Trump's debt was partially forgiven by a hedge fund he owed money to after he paid about half of it off.

Mother Jones suggested Trump may have "parked" his debt, referring to the practice used by "big-time borrowers" to avoid paying taxes on loans that "could be as high as 39%."

"They purchase the debt through a corporation, parking the loan within this entity to temporarily avoid realizing income," wrote Russ Choma at Mother Jones at the time, noting that the practice falls into a "legal gray area" but violates federal tax law if the borrower parks the debt indefinitely with no intention of repaying it.

In Trump's case, Choma hypothesized, "there may have been no loan to buy, no debt to park; Trump might have invented a loan—and then parked it."

The letter sent to Engoron on Friday suggests that "Jones has apparently confirmed what Mother Jones theorized," said Roger Sollenberger of The Daily Beast.

"While the reasons behind claiming this fake loan are still unknown, at the very least he misled the government for years about his finances," Jordan Libowitz, communications director at Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, told The Daily Beast. "It appears that Trump knowingly and intentionally broke the law."

Lobel noted that Jones' letter points to the kind of conduct that the Republican Party aims to stop the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) from penalizing wealthy tax evaders. Earlier this month, the GOP secured concessions from Democratic leaders for a budget deal that would include an acceleration of funding cuts to the IRS.

"This explains why the Republicans have been so intent on cutting the IRS's budget," Lobel told The Daily Beast, "because they don't want it to be able to audit transactions like this."


US Trump Tax Evasion

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